8 tips for healthy grilling


8 tips for healthy grilling

Various grilled vegetables.

As soon as it’s warm enough to wear shorts and sandals, many of us fire up the grill. Sure, it makes a hot day even hotter, but that’s part of the fun of this time-honoured summer tradition.

Maybe you can’t get enough carne asada, you’re bragging about your grilling skills, or you’ve committed to an annual Fourth of July BBQ. Whatever your menu, a summer barbecue is a wonderful way to celebrate the season.

But barbecuing isn’t just about sunshine and fun: there are real health risks associated with barbecuing. Epidemiological studies have shown that cooking meat at high temperatures is associated with an increased risk of pancreatic, prostate, stomach and colon cancer. Pollutants associated with this risk include heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

HCAs are formed when animal proteins are cooked at high heat, typically above 428 degrees F; They can also occur when roasting meat for a long time or when frying in a pan at elevated temperatures.

PAHs are formed when fat and meat juices drip onto charcoal or open flames, causing smoke and flares. They can also occur when smoking, roasting or deep-frying.

Various factors, including cooking temperatures, cooking method, type of protein, and length of cooking time result in different types of HCAs. But that doesn’t mean you have to skip the grill or that the occasional burger will send you to an early grave. Experience Life has put together these grilling tips to help reduce the risk of carcinogens in your food at your next BBQ.


1) Grill with gas

Cooking meat and potatoes on a gas grill.

The smoky flavors that charcoal imparts to grilled meat are no doubt delicious, but cooking with gas is the healthier option. The simple reason? Charcoal burns hotter and cooking at high heat is dangerous. Gas grills are also easier to control, so you don’t have to worry about overcooking or undercooking your meat.

2) Keep it clean

Proper care of your grill will extend its life and ensure years of grilling pleasure. But there are also health benefits to keeping your grill and tools clean.

Charred food builds up on cooking grates, drip pans and burners. Cleaning all parts as thoroughly as possible can remove food debris and prevent smoke, ash and flames – all of which can lead to carcinogenic substances getting onto your food.

Another benefit of a clean grill? A reduced risk of foodborne illness. Nobody wants a steak with a side of salmonella.

3) Grill more plants

Satisfy your grilled cravings by throwing a handful of mushrooms, peppers, and zucchini on the grill. No HCAs and PAHs are produced when grilling vegetables.

You can substitute a cauliflower steak for a T-bone steak. Or thread corn on the cob, aubergine and onion chunks (or whatever you like) with tenderloin or chicken chunks onto a skewer for a clever way to grill more veggies without sacrificing your favorite cuts of meat.

You can also add variety by grilling fruit (try these grilled peaches with almond cream first). The sugars in the fruit caramelize beautifully on the grill, providing a rich counterpoint that brings out the flavors on your plate—especially when paired with spices. Grilled fruit is also a gourmet ingredient in summery cocktails and mocktails.

In general, eating more plants is ideal to support a healthy diet.


4) Choose the right protein

Salmon and corn on the cob are grilled.

We would all be better off limiting our consumption of processed meat. While staples like hot dogs and sausages often take center stage at backyard cookouts, some researchers have linked processed meats to an increased risk of cancer.

The solution? Stick to fresh red meat cuts like steaks and ribs, or opt for poultry or seafood. Grilling poultry and fish at high temperatures can produce some carcinogens, but the harmful toxins are not produced to the same extent as red meat. Heart-healthy salmon, trout, mackerel and other fatty fish are great for the grill.

5) Cut off the fat

Trimming excess fat from meat means less fat drips onto coals or open flames, resulting in less smoke and flare – and therefore fewer carcinogens.

Choosing lean proteins is another simple and clever trick to avoid developing carcinogens.

6) Marinate the meat

Marinating the proteins adds flavor to them; Acids and enzymes in ingredients like yogurt, citrus fruits, and ginger tenderize the meat. More importantly, some marinades can help significantly reduce the formation of HCAs when grilling.

Experimenting with marinades loaded with herbs and spices is a wonderful way to unleash your culinary creativity while reaping the benefits of the antioxidants and polyphenols found in fragrant ingredients like rosemary, sage, clove, and cinnamon.


7) Try a new tool

Cook fish in an iron pan over the grill.

Instead of putting the proteins directly on the grill grate, cook them in a cast-iron skillet on your grill. There are a plethora of benefits to using cast iron cookware: Essentially non-stick and free of dodgy chemicals and coatings, a properly seasoned cast iron skillet is great for cooking smaller cuts of meat, delicate fish and chopped veggies.

On the grill, the pan forms a barrier between your food and the rising smoke, potentially reducing the risk of cancer.

Another option is stainless steel flat grills. Because they’re flame-free, you don’t have to worry about catching flames or dripping fat onto the coals. Flat grills have the added benefit of heating food evenly and offering foolproof temperature control. Just be mindful of the amount of oil you use – you don’t need nearly as much on a flattop grill as you do on a grated grill.

8) Avoid charring

Charring causes HCAs to form on animal proteins, whether you grill, broil, or grill over an open flame. So think twice before grilling the rib eye until it’s blackened or cooked through. As a general rule of thumb, cook at a low temperature and slowly.

This story was produced by Experience life and reviewed and distributed by Stacker Media.

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